For many millions of us, Facebook has become a key way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Many share news of important life events like births, birthdays, anniversaries. And many also have begun to use Facebook to share news of an important end-of-life event – the death of a loved one. As Legacy.com explores and develops new ways for Facebook users to stay connected in times of loss and pay tribute to loved ones, Robbie Kaplan shares her thoughts on social media and communicating after a death.

 

When a 25-year-old member of my community took her life, her mother announced the death on her Facebook wall. Condolence comments poured in. She posted a message when the funeral plans were made, a message thanking everyone for their support, and, a few months later, she posted her eulogy. Facebook seemed the central place to share her loss.

 

This experience has made me think about the role social media plays in death and grief. Whether we like it or not, social media has changed the way we individually and collectively deal with death and grief. Facebook is a quick way to spread the word and some users are using it as a place to communicate that someone has died. It can also be a gathering place to express condolences and share memories.

 

The latest and newest technologies have changed the way we communicate and have had an impact on the process of mourning. Not that long ago many questioned whether e-mail was an appropriate medium for talking about death and loss. And yet it no longer seems inappropriate to communicate the news of a death in an e-mail or express condolences in an online guest book. There absolutely are times when it’s just too painful to speak about a loved one’s death, whether by telephone or in person, and e-mail and other ways of communicating online can be invaluable during these instances. It’s less intrusive than a telephone call and the recipient can respond, if they’d like, at their leisure.

 

Facebook may seem like an unconventional method to spread the news that someone has died, but is it? We learn of deaths all the time through the media, whether in the newspaper, online, or on television. Many organizations send e-mails to communicate the death of a community member. So how different is it to read about it on Facebook? Isn’t Facebook just another form of communication?

 

At first glance, a site like Facebook seems like an impersonal way to learn of something so personal. But is it just another form of technology that we have to adapt to? I can see the pros and cons. What are your thoughts on social media and how we communicate about death and grief?

 

Read more about Facebook and its role in communicating about and coping with death, or learn more about Legacy.com's Facebook memorials app.

 

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.

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Comment by Paula on December 13, 2013 at 12:50am

I know this article was written a long time ago, but I'm glad I found it. My boyfriend's brother-in-law passed away this past weekend. Within a few hours, the decedent's family was already plastering the man's wife's Facebook wall with photos, memorial collages, and the first one to do so (he passed at around 7 pm, and this was at midnight) actually said that he was "partying with so-and-so in heaven." I found this to be highly inappropriate, considering he died of complications from illicit drug use. On what planet is this appropriate? The wife probably hasn't been on Facebook in years, and when she does return, this is what she's coming back to. The closest family and loved ones of the deceased deserve to be notified personally. I don't care if it's by private Facebook message, text, phone call, or e-mail, but they should hear it directly from someone who loved him just as much. Leave social media out of it for at least a few days to give everyone a chance to get caught up. Let the public Facebook blast be for the stragglers. This whole situation makes me sick to my stomach. 

Comment by River of Tears on April 20, 2011 at 3:50am

Dear Robbie ,  Your articles as I have read them  bring one to stop to ponder and look within . 

 For me I would rather hear it from someone directly as to say not over the virtual highway .  Though it is a difficult time so to have someone be on the phone or talk to so many it is wearing and also one that is almost impossible to do .  But to hear of someones passing especially a loved one this is heart breaking enough but to see it or as to watch it on tv before anyone told you  . I am not sure if life was meant to be this way or was it .  So many have pulled away and do not want to talk anymore as I sit here all alone after  3 of my family just passed away and wonder why and how .  To think the separation is wide enough why give it another avenue to be this way .  Maybe its me as told so often I am "  just so sensitive"  the word " just always throws me as though it is meant to tell me there is something wrong with me . Well maybe .  But do I feel  ...Yes and at times greatly , maybe at times more then others around me do . Do I always show it no . For reasons for just that .. The word " just "  I have learned to put those feeling away for others.  As the virtual contact does too.  Do I use it myself  , of course I love having a computer and being able to email and contacting others.  But to hear of another's passing that way . I would be devastated . Other then to say at least no one would see my feelings then .     I was faced with question of how I wanted to handle contacting my family but a 1/2 hour after my sister passed .  Did I have even the strength at that time to think I don't know all I can remember now is she was still laying there as they asked and almost were telling me that I had to call everyone . Not that I would not have done this on my own  . They still made as though it had to be done then rather until I caught my breath in just realizing she was gone .  To call all those who had not been in her life but she love so . They thought that I needed to do this . Was this for me that they asked or for them so that maybe they would not have to send a virtual email to all . I am not sure.  If this is what was ., I am glad then they had me do it as I would have not wanted them to hear any other way other then from someone that loved her so very much . Not a computer , not a letter , not a news paper .  As the family now had 3 loved ones who just passed in a row , so if to find out over the Internet . I don't think so .

 

For some it may something that brings they a way of ease so not to have to talk allot , but what I had to ask , ( well  a few times or more please  talk to so and so ) so that it was carried on from one family member to the other .   Some wanted to others did not , but then again that is life. All one can do is what they have strength to do .  This is all I found to do . After now with out a Father ,Mother and Sister in a short period of time to think that life and time stopped really before we knew or I could say once more I love you to each . An email would not have done it this time .

 

Please take 

 

 

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